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Mental health services to expand July 1

Money targeted for people needing intensive treatment

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Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 9:00 am

OLYMPIA - Mental health patients, especially those in need of intensive treatment, will have more options beginning July 1. The 2013 Washington Legislature approved $23 million in funding for intensive mental health services statewide.

The 2010 legislature approved new standards for involuntary mental health treatment, explained Chris Imhoff, director of the division of behavioral health at the state Department of Social and Health Services. "The revised law changed the criteria for involuntary commitment, Imhoff said. "It allows mental health professionals to consider more of the person's history."

But because of the state's fiscal condition the legislature didn't provide any money to implement the changes, she said. The money had to wait until the 2013 session, she said. With it, "we are able to spread more resources across the state," she said.

The money will be distributed through Regional Support Networks, which, in the case of Grant County, is based in Spokane. "Definitely more resources to handle mental health crises," Imhoff said.

Leroy Allison, a mental health administrator at Grant Integrated Services, said the money will make more room for inpatient mental health treatment in the region. "Which is a good thing," he said.

The goal is to ensure that people who need mental health treatment can get it more easily, to address problems before they escalate, and help to ease "just plain old human suffering," Imhoff said.

The money will provide for "crisis diversion beds," Imhoff said. It's an alternative for patients who need the inpatient alternative, she said. "A place to stay. A place to go."

The expanded services include help for people who are finishing with intensive treatment and management for intensive cases, Imhoff said.

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